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Looking Forward

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"Looking Forward"

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A Year After Failed Senate Vote, Activists Prepare A Big Year For Gun Safety

One year after a minority of U.S. Senators voted to defy public opinion and block common-sense gun safety legislation, advocates are still working tirelessly to pass laws that reduce violence and keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Some of the most recognizable names in the movement have re-doubled their efforts on the issue, with a focus on holding political leaders accountable when they vote against their constituents’ interests.

Earlier this week, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a $50 million challenge to the N.R.A. with a new organization called Everytown for Gun Safety. The group is an umbrella group of Bloomberg’s former advocacy organization Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America, started by “accidental activist” Shannon Watts as a Facebook page after the Newtown massacre. Those two groups joined forces late last year.

The New York Times wrote that Bloomberg believes “advocates need to learn from the N.R.A. and punish those politicians who fail to support their agenda — even Democrats.” Everytown’s plans take a page from the Obama campaign’s playbook, investing big resources in a grassroots organization operation in 15 target states.

Meanwhile, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords marked the one-year anniversary of the vote with a strongly-worded opinion piece in USA Today in which she calls on Americans to “fight back against political cowardice.”

“Given the opportunity to stand up to the gun lobby by supporting legislation favored by two-thirds of Americans,” she writes, “these senators did what all politicians do when they fear upsetting powerful interests: They voted for the status quo.”

Gabby also announced that Americans for Responsible Solutions, the organization she founded with her husband, former astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, has had more than 500,000 Americans join and 160,000 donate. The organization has raised $14.5 million since it began last year.

But in the fight for responsible gun laws, new voices are leading the way alongside these well-known leaders. A campaign organized by Generation Progress (the Center for American Progress’s youth-outreach arm) has focused on the disproportionate impact of gun violence among young people. The group hosted a gun violence prevention summit in Washington, DC with over 100 attendees from high schools and colleges nationwide. It has put out a report highlighting how gun violence is devastating millenials, and is on pace to be the leading killer of young people under 25 by 2015. Just this week, in partnership with the Director of the National Jazz Theater of Harlem Jon Batiste and students from Duke Ellington High School in Washington, DC, the group put out an original dance performance honoring the 33 people who are murdered by gunfire every day and to kick off their new #fight4the33 campaign.

BOTTOM LINE: The movement to reduce gun violence is still growing, and it has big plans for the coming election year. Elected officials should heed the call of their constituents or be prepared to face the music. But as campaigns like #fightforthe33 remind us, this is about more than just political consequences: it’s about working to reduce an epidemic that is robbing young people of their futures.